First edition; Chapters 1 – 5
Chapter 1: Welcome to Dunnington Academy
All the shouting was giving Wilhelmina Rothton a headache.She had been arguing with her mother Clarisse Rothton for the hour it took them to journey from the human realm through the portal located on a private island in the Grenadines, to Ahrdas and had continued the argument even when they had arrived at Ahrdas’ port of exchange, where all visitors were thoroughly checked before being allowed any further onto the island.
“I’d much rather continue as I always have,” she was saying now, ignoring her mother’s steely glare.
“You can’t sweetheart, you know that quite well,” Clarisse smoothed the folds of her designer skirt as she spoke. Wilhelmina cattily continued arguing her case,
“The only reason this is happening is because of a stupid tradition that makes no sense anymore since daddy’s . . .” Her mother looked at her sharply now, her voice edged with rage,
“Don’t say it, don’t you dare say it I swear if you do . . .”
“But mummy I don’t want to go here,” Wilhelmina pleaded; an unsuccessful attempt.
“That’s enough Wilhelmina,” her mother said, giving her a strained smile, “Now, off you go, won’t have you being late for your first day.”
The girl glared at her tight-lipped mother for a few seconds more, before jumping from the open carriage door. She vaulted easily onto her winged horse Penny. He had been right alongside awaiting his mistress throughout the argument. Wilhelmina was well aware that her choice of pet name had been a bit ridiculous considering what Penny was. It was indeed a somewhat comical moniker for this majestic animal and had made her the brunt of merciless teasing when she had taken Penny to her cousin’s the summer before. Yet, comical name or not, having Penny close to her seemed to be the only good thing about having to go Dunnington Academy.
It was a boarding school unlike any other, filled with supernatural races, many of them legacies. In some cases entire families had attended throughout the years, adding to its rich history. Like Dorothy in one of her favourite childhood books, Wilhelmina was well aware that she had left ‘Kansas’ far behind, as Dunnington’s student body was made up of vampires, shifters, lycans, wielders of magic, generally referred to as wieldersand seers.
Wilhelmina was a witch and a budding talent. Her prowess with magic allowed her to do things that others could only dream about, without her ever having to move even an inch. To her it was a gift, something she did not hate or shun, but embraced. Still, she was no match for her sister. Even before Favaline had attended Dunnington, which had of course tapped into her potential and made her become even more powerful, it seemed the older girl had always won in their sibling warfareand with little effort.
Though from the beginning of the quarrel with her mother she’d known she had little power in the exchange, Wilhelmina had hoped that somewhere along the journey the older woman would change her mind. However, her continuous pleading had obviously not appealed to her mother’s sensitive side and it was because of this, amidst airborne vehicles, including flying mounts like her own and a host of other modes of transport not unusual for those who manned them, that the girl made her way towards the Academy.
Wilhelmina had turned fifteen just a month before and, as was inevitable, she was sent to join others like herself in this rite of passage. She would have to attend the school for three years, after which she’d be reintegrated into the human realm. During her three years, she would only be allowed to leave Ahrdas for two months of summer holiday per year. The students’ only other break — two weeks in the fall, had to be spent on Ahrdas.
As every sunset signalled her birthday drawing closer Wilhelmina, or Mina as she preferred to be called, though seldom was this acknowledged, could not stand the thought of being separated from her mother. Her father was no longer a part of their lives and hadn’t been for nearly five years, thus she seldom missed him, but she would definitely feel this distance from her mother deeply. This was not all that bothered the girl however. Her sister Favaline was a legend at the school, she had surpassed every expectation, risen to every challenge and left as a superstar in the eyes of teachers and students alike. Wilhelmina often wondered how she was ever to accomplish any of that.
She rode Penny to a halt, coming to a stop in front of the entrance-way. Other students skilfully avoided them as she sat almost motionless in their paths. She stroked Penny’s white neck absently, looking up at the main building where they were all to gather. With its gothic architecture, complete with a crown steeple that rose high into the air, Wilhelmina was once again completely sure this was not the place for her.
She had been quite happy back at her old school Rosewood Preparatory, she had made friends and there had even been a boy she’d liked. Sure, sometimes it was hard to control her particular talents, but in Wilhelmina’s eyes, that didn’t mean that she couldn’t have survived her last years there with minor incident.
Instead here she was, at an unfamiliar place, not knowing at all what to expect. Well, that wasn’t exactly true. Whenever her family had visited Favaline when she had been a student, they were given grand tours and told every little detail as her sister regaled them with all the dramatics necessary for a Broadway stage. It was actually the reason Wilhelmina knew exactly what to do when she turned Penny round and flew towards the stables. They were situated near the student gardens and were a part of a spacious compound where all the students’ pets were kept.
“Goodbye my love,” she whispered in Penny’s ear just before climbing down. She was sad she had to; she always loved the feeling of gliding through the air whenever she rode him. In the human realm, Penny’s ability to fly was taken away using magic and his wings were hidden, soWilhelmina had no choice but to ride him as an ordinary horse. This was a favourite pastime too of course, but nothing could compare to the alternative. Wilhelmina tied Penny to a vacant post, making a mental note to arrange better accommodations after she had settled in, and hurried back to the main hall. Her sister’s voluntary information was another reason she had committed the school’s layout to memory and knew exactly where to go when she finally walked through the large redwood doors.
All new students were expected to attend an introductory assembly. Wilhelmina knew she shouldn’t waste time finding a front row seat, which was where first years would be expected to sit. She found it hard however, not to take a quick look around first.
The balconies were already teeming with noisy students. She could feel a vibrant energy that came from more than their boisterousness and Wilhelmina felt herself taking it in, identifying the sources, acknowledging those who were weak and in comparison, very strong.
A boy brushed past her and Wilhelmina jumped, pulling herself back to the task at hand. She found a seat quickly, knowing that day-dreaming would be a silly excuse should she get into trouble for being late. Tardiness was unacceptable — this was an unwritten rule in the book of Dunnington.
As Wilhelmina sat quietly, she could not help but make more mental notes of those around her. She could almost feel the fear in some, the arrogance of others. At times she felt grabs at her thoughts from nosy schoolmates and did her best to cordon off the attempts. Her mother had said Dunnington wouldn’t be easy.
One by one the red chairs were filled around her. There was lots of talking, but little of this came from the first year section. Even those that knew each other, kept their mouths closed. Most already knew what to expect and what was expected of them. No one wanted to be the first to be made an example of on Headmaster Dumitre’s stage.
Wilhelmina breathed in deep and closed her eyes tight. She sometimes did this when she needed a moment to block everything out and focus on herself. Yes, I’m really here. She opened them soon after making this mental announcement and did a quick personal check. Her long, dark brown hair was pulled securely into a high ponytail, pale skin void of make-up. For Wilhelmina, her appearance was the epitome of a studious and efficient pupil. She looked down at herself now, glad that despite riding Penny her uniform held no creases. It consisted of a red and navy-blue plaid skirt, short-sleeved white blouse, red blazer with the school’s Ægishjálmr crest — the Helm of Aweand her shoes, encasing pristine white knee-high socks, were still shiny black.
School uniforms were a necessity for special occasions like this, where new students were welcomed and all others were commanded to perform better than they had the year before. Otherwise, this formality was disregarded. The school’s authorities had tried to implement uniforms, no exceptions, in the early days, but it soon seemed ridiculous to trap an adolescent lycan or wielder in clothes they were uncomfortable in.
Satisfied that she was more than presentable and pushing anxiety aside, Wilhelmina continued to listen and watch as the hall filled up with more and more students. Faculty was also starting to make their way to the platform, where they would all sit for the duration of the assembly. They came onstage in rows of ten and when four of these rows had been filled, Wilhelmina did not miss how quickly the noise in the hall dissipated, until there was complete silence.
She caught herself looking back as the great doors were closed and felt sorry for anyone who hadn’t made it in on time. These thoughts soon vanished though, as an imposing figure stepped forward. At least, he seemed imposing to her.
She’d only ever seen him briefly before, but Headmaster Dumitre had a face that was hard to forget. His eyes were palest green and ivory hair fell to his shoulders. His strong jaw complimented a youthful face and he was even more intimidating in the dark red and black of his floor length robe, one that the Dunnington headmaster was required to wear on official occasions. Wilhelmina found herself staring at the man even before he began to speak and judging from the silence of those around her, she was sure she wasn’t the only first year who felt the unique energy that was flowing directly from him.
“Welcome new, welcome old, I embrace you all into the fold that is Dunnington Academy.” The faculty and students stood now, clapping as they did. Wilhelmina knew what to do on hearing this time honoured ‘welcome back’ phrase and stood confidently, well aware that some of the other firsts took their cue from her when she did. She didn’t mind though, not everyone had a bragging sister to give them the play by play.
She sat when the applause died and the hall fell silent once more, as they awaited their headmaster’s words. Headmaster Dumitre considered his notes, then seemed to think against using them and looked directly at his students instead.
“The new faces I see here are an inspiration to me every year. It means the tradition of Dunnington continues, without fail,” he paused now, looking across the hall and to the balconies that the third years occupied. “Some of you are now at the head of the student body and with that, comes great responsibility. You must bring honour to yourselves, as you have a duty to your fellow students and of course your school, at all times.”
Wilhelmina sucked in a breath. It was all so very official. Whatever happened to assemblies where the latest developments would be who blew a spit ball into your hair and Mr. Eversely the science teacher singing loudly while forgetting the words to Lead Us Heavenly Father? It seemed like only yesterday that had been her life and now, she had ‘honour’ and ‘duty’ to contend with. She felt her stomach getting sicker by the minute, longing for the things she was accustomed to. But, that wasn’t going to happen. Wilhelmina knew the conventional aspects of the school life she’d known before were gone. After all, her headmaster was a vampire, couldn’t get more unorthodox than that.
“. . . did a wonderful job last year and have gone onto the second year where I’m sure this will continue.” Wilhelmina snapped to attention, she had missed what Headmaster Dumitre had been saying and hoped it hadn’t been important. She didn’t need to wonder for long.
“With the second year council moved on, it’s time to announce who the first year council for the newest year group at Dunnington will be.” Drum roll, was the first thing Wilhelmina thought. It was how the headmaster said it, as if it was some great distinction that was to be bestowed on unknowing recipients. She’d seen how her sister had been as a council member and often thought if all acted as Favaline did, they were made up of a mean bunch.
“When you hear your names, please come forward and be officially recognized before your peers.” The silence that already blanketed the room seemed to deepen, as the entire student body listened attentively to those that would be at the head of the first years. Wilhelmina too was barely breathing, knowing how important good picks would be to her overall quality of life at the school. She mentally crossed her fingers hoping for the best. Headmaster Dumitre looked once more at his students before consulting the tablet PC he held in his hands.
“Seer Sect, Christopher Walt, Lycanthrope Sect, Loic Niklasson, Shifter Sect, Victoria Parker, Sorcery Sect, Wilhelmina Rothton, Vampire Sect, Nathan Taylor.” He looked up from his notes to the audience and Wilhelmina, as if in some kind of dream, stood, amidst the gasps of those around her. She could feel the stares burning into her back and heard the whispers as first years became friends as they conversed about these new developments. No doubt those in her sect would be observing every little detail about her, as she made her way to the stage, just as those of the other four sects would treat their own representatives. Wilhelmina cringed at the thought.
This wasn’t something she had ever expected. Sure she was a Rothton and her family well-known and respected in the circles that mattered, her sister had served on the council in her time there, which ended two years before and Rothtons were always known to do well at Dunnington, but, that meant nothing when it came to choosing council members.
It had been something about her, uniquely her, that the governing body had decided would be suited to represent the sect of sorcery for the next three years.
As Wilhelmina moved closer to the steps that would lead her up to the platform, listening to the gentle thuds as her feet fell one after another on the wooden panels, she tried not to give in to the feeling of growing discomfort in her stomach. Fate it seemed, had decided today’s joke would be on her. She would follow in the same footsteps of the one who had so tortured her as a child. Only Favaline would see the comic irony in this.